Chapter 16

It took five days for the bulk of the fighting in Agalia to migrate outside of the city walls. Civilians were still fighting each other but the lethal force of a military presence had been drawn away from the civilian population. West Agalia had suffered. Buildings and businesses had been burned to the ground and many people had been injured.

"Sir the squads outside the city walls are starting to suffer. They're no match to the East's army." General Brock reported to Zarsan.

"And the East army is still low enough to keep on attacking them." Zarsan said in frustration. "Kerrin has still had no luck in contacting Waylon and reports say he's holed up in his family villa. This madness will continue unless we persuade Lafi to call off the military."

"Why has he ordered this?" Brock was still in shock over this. "A direct takeover bid is an insanely risky thing to do in this day and age."

"And yet here we are, Brock." Zarsan sighed wearily. He had other ideas as to Waylon and Lafi's motives, equally as insane. Harper and Zari. Even with the East army behind him, Lafi had no hope of marching into either Luh, or Ludrigshires to get to them and that would be his only option. He had nothing to offer in negotiations with Ludrig without exposing Waylon, and his own parts in Luh's sacking. Zarsan, on the other hand, would be exonerated of all involvement because he wasn't involved. In fact, he was in Jullit. He could simply go to Luh and talk to Ludrig without much risk. All the loopholes that Waylon had thought he'd covered, were unravelling. Attacking West Agalia would divide its army, both halves equal in expertise, but with no chance of intervention from Ludrig. Lafi would be on an equal footing to Zarsan, only Lafi woudn't be out among the fighting, Zarsan would. So far, no one had managed to eliminate Zarsan but once he was gone, there'd be no more talk of Luhan spouses and heirs. The Boon family would be rulers of all Agalia.

"One division is already trying to sort out the situation in the city, sir." Brock said meaningfully. Zarsan snorted angrily.

"This should never have happened. Make the other divisions visible Brock, and use minimum force in a defensive capacity only."

"We may need to do more than defend." Brock said.

"I know. Hold out as long as possible just keeping them in check. Remember, Brock, they're Agalian soldiers, just like we are. We're all Agalian. Even if they have been ordered into this, I won't order any soldier to attack his brother." Zarsan said.

"Yes sir. I understand that." Brock nodded. "I will raise one point though sir. As you say, we're all Agalian soldiers so we've all been trained to the same high standard. This could go to a lock that could go on for months and cost lives from both sides."

"Which is why we need to shake some sense into Emperor Lafi and his uncle." Zarsan frowned in annoyance. "Defensive position, Brock. I should be out in the streets for now."

"Right away sir."


Ludrig and Keegan were in conference with Ludrig's Administration committee and Ludrig only recognised six of them.

"So have I always had an Administration Committee?" He whispered to Keegan.

"Yes. You prefer your brawling committee so you don't see much of this lot." Keegan told him.

"True." Ludrig nodded. "Right! You two, you, and you three, stay here. The rest of you go and arrange some scrolls or something." He pointed at the six he recognised and dismissed the rest. Keegan rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I don't usually meet with Administrators because they get on my nerves. However, Keegan thinks that the situation needs your input. Start inputting." The Administrators looked at each other in confusion.

"On which situation are we inputting?" Senior Administrator Perrin Fletcher asked warily.

"For buggery's sake! Does no one have a thought of their own in this dump?" Ludrig exclaimed and Keegan tried to keep a straight face. "The situation up there!" That didn't make it any clearer for the Administrators.

"The King means Agalia." Keegan provided.

"Well of course I mean Agalia! What other situation is there just now?" Ludrig said testily. "So? Eric, isn't it?"

"Perrin. Perrin Fletcher. I'm not sure in which area we're meant to be inputting. It's an internal conflict and to intervene on one side or the other could be damaging for Agalia's own economy." Perrin nodded. "That sort of input?"

"My eight year old daughter could have inputted that!" Ludrig shouted.

"You don't have an eight year old daughter. Calm down." Keegan said discretely.

"Yes I do. Yay big with red hair, good with a slingshot."

"Ellen and she's eleven. Do you want to continue here?" Keegan nodded to the bewildered Committee.

"Huh? Oh yes! As I was saying before Keegan interrupted me with his rubbish. What to do about the fools in Agalia?"

"The conflict doesn't affect us. I mean that in a political way, not a sympathetic one." Perrin said. "It would take quite a monumental event for us to ever be involved in combat with either side of Agalia. We've been at peace for years."

"How dull." Ludrig sniffed. "How's this for a monumental event? We have Emperor Zarsan's wife and son in the vegetable field. What if he was to barge down here causing trouble?"

"I presume this is hypothetical." Perrin smiled and Ludrig just looked at Keegan, who had to lower his head to hide a grin. "Even if Emperor Zarsan presumed we'd imprisoned this wife and son, he can do nothing about it just now. He's the head of the Western army, as well as West's Emperor."

"He's a military genius, Derek. All he's doing now is holding off the Eastern lot in the hope of getting some explanation from Waylon and his jester ... I mean nephew. Zarsan knows the value of the ordinary citizens too. No one likes a leader that takes them into a pointless war and an Emperor is dependant on his people. How long will Zarsan hold out knowing his wife and son are here? Once he reaches him limit, he'll waste the Eastern army who will be depleted by then due to fatigue, deflections to the West and overall pissed offness. Then what? As a non aggressor and a striver to keep the peace in Agalia, he'll be as popular as a virgin in a cat house. They'll be down here in droves. Have I clarified that enough for you?" Ludrig smiled falsely at Perrin.

"Entirely so." Perrin nodded. "In that case, we'd need to speak to Emperor Zarsan before he got to the charging down here in a rage stage, which we can't because he's got his work made out for him in Agalia. Anyway, I'm sure you'd agree that the scenario is too extreme to even consider. Zarsan's wife died a month ago and his child is a daughter, in Agalia."

"No not that wife, the other wife. We have one here. She isn't called Hypothetical, though. No idea who that could be." Ludrig shrugged. "It's real, Peggy. She's been right here in the Castle for ten years and we only just found out who she was. It was a complete waste of time asking for your input. You've talked nothing but offal since you got here. I was hoping you could offer an alternative plan to Keegan going back to Agalia. It's sheer luck that no one's recognised him in the past, but in war time, peoples' suspicions are at a high. Also, it's my belief that Zarsan has been the subject of severe political skullduggery. We have to devise a way to discretely let him know our sympathies lie with him."

"That's 'sympathies' not a few hundred horsemen in battle armour." Keegan clarified. "It looks like it's unavoidable that I've got to go back to Agalia. You're coming with me, Perrin. We need a meeting with Zarsan in a situation where meetings will be the bottom his list. You'll negotiate with his own, personal Administrator, a man called Florian Drake. He's utterly loyal to Zarsan so you must earn the man's trust. We need Zarsan in Luh at a time where every military obligation he has will be in Agalia."

"Well you did better than he did, Keegan." Queen Kenan swept into the room from the balcony, sending everyone into startled shock. "Isn't this supposed to be more secure?"

"Kenan!" Ludrig yelled. "Are you mad? What are you doing lurking about out there, woman? What do you mean, secure? We're four floors up!"

"Harper? He's quite a normal colour and he's not salivating." Kenan moved the curtain and Harper peeped into the room. Ludrig went purple and began salivating. "No shouting, dear."

"Queen Kenan. Er ... can we help you? Harper?" Keegan felt an irrational and very hysterical giggle forming in his stomach.

"You really do complicate things." Kenan tutted. "Perrin. Go with Keegan and ingratiate yourself into Agalia. So far so good."

"Kenan it's a warzone! Ingratiate? Are you drunk? Come on, out of here. You too Harper." Ludrig nudged Harper towards the door and Keegan snorted a laugh.

"You meet with this Florian Drake, as Keegan said." Kenan nudged Harper back into the room. "Why try and get him to convince Zarsan to go against his military and political obligations? Just tell him! Tell him that Harper and Zari are here and he'll be out of the city gate like a shot."

"Actually, I'd already suggested that." Ludrig sulked.

"Of course you did, dear." Kenan smiled at her husband.

"I did! Before they all started battering each other. Didn't I Keegan?" Ludrig protested and Keegan couldn't even answer him due to pent up laughter. "Arse." Ludrig muttered. "Zarsan could suspect a trap. Ha! Had you thought of that?"

"You'll just have to convince him otherwise. Why would he suspect a trap, anyway? The only thing that would do is ensure that Waylon and Lafi secure the whole of Agalia with your help. Harper doesn't think Zarsan would believe such bilge." Kenan stated.

"Oh?" Ludrig asked and all eyes moved from Kenan to Harper.

"Although I don't think Zarsan ever met King Ludrig, he's lived all his life with the peaceful understanding between Ludrigshires and Agalia. Eight of those years was in Luh, right next door to him. Ludrig values this peace as much as Zarsan does and Zarsan knows this. I'm in quite a unique position here. I'm acquainted with both men." Harper smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "All this needs pieced together. Don't you see? Ludrig knows some things, Zarsan knows some things, Waylon knows some things, I do, Keegan does, and because none of it was put together, we have a civil war in Agalia."

"And the only thing that will drag Zarson away from his duties is his family. Harper can tell him herself that she wasn't held prisoner." Kenan said and smiled at Harper.

"I suggested that too!" Ludrig butted in and Kenan nodded at him. "I did! I'd take her to Luh and ... and ... This is my meeting Kenan and I had everything under control. You shouldn't even be here! Meetings aren't for women."

"I know dear, I'm sorry." Kenan squeezed Ludrig's arm. "We couldn't help but overhear, could we Harper? We were just trying to help. We'll leave you to your chat. Come on Harper." She steered Harper out of the door.

"Chat?" Ludrig shouted. "This isn't a chat! It's a meeting! Infernal woman. Does she know what happened to the last woman who interfered like this? Eh?" He ranted.

"You married her. My mother planned the counter attack on Pipersville." Keegan reminded him and Ludrig gave him a dirty look.

"Excuse me?" Perrin put up his hand. "Do I prepare to leave for Agalia with Prince Keegan?"

"Of course you do! What do you think we've been on about for the last hour?" Ludrig barked. "I need a word with the Queen. I could have sworn I had an eight year old daughter."

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